British and American Legal English

Do you prefer British English or American English? George Bernard Shaw once stated that Britain and the United States were too nations separated by a common language. Was he correct and how well do us Brits understand our American cousins?

How well do you know English?

While US law is largely derived from our common law system, there are considerable differences in terms of substance and procedure. If you look at some areas of US and English law you would be surprised at how closely related they are - land law for example. However, criminal law is completely different.


In terms of vocabulary, words such as lawsuit, subpoena, and attorney are heard frequently in courtrooms and in bars across the United States but a lawyer would be laughed out of court if she tried to use them in a British court.


Our friends at GrammarCheck have designed the infographic that you see below. It is primarily focused on general English language but should still prove useful to lawyers and law students. It shows that in some cases, the difference is merely one of spelling while in others the words change completely. For instance, football in the US is very different to football in the UK. A yard in the UK is more industrial than in the US where you will find it behind your home.


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British Legal English